Thursday, February 25, 2016

Today At The Desk...

My shift today was a little shorter than usual as I had to attend our mandatory staff harassment and discrimination training, which took up an hour in the middle of the shift.
The shift started off quietly, giving me a chance to withdraw some books that had been de-selected and do a little research for some supplies and ideas for storytime.

After I got back from the training session, things had picked up a bit.  I was soon approached by a patron who asked to use the phone.  But then what initially seemed like a routine request, turned out to be more complicated.  After no one answered her call, she began telling me her whole situation.  An acquaintance had asked to use her phone, then said the battery was low and he was going up to the 2nd floor to charge it, but evidently disappeared with it.  She could not find him anywhere in the library and he did not answer the phone when she called.  She said she had already gone next door to the police station, but they had blown her off.

I empathized with her and told her I would call our security and see if they could help her.  While we waited for them to come down she began to get more and more upset, realizing that she had been too trusting, and that there were precious pictures of her daughter on her phone that she would lose if she didn't it back.  To further complicate things, she didn't know the phone numbers of any close friends or family members from memory so she could call them to come help her, she just relied on all her contacts being in her phone, as many of us do.  As she was getting upset and security was taking a little longer than expected, I invited her to have a seat in one of our cozy chairs while she waited.

After the security guard arrived, I explained that she had been coerced into giving her phone to an acquaintance who had apparently stolen it, and that she was very upset and did not know how to get in touch with anyone who could help her of give her some support.  He took her into our story room for privacy to talk to her and try to get as much info as possible, and our head of security called the police and got them to take the situation seriously.  The last I heard they were still waiting for a police officer to come take a report. 

I really hope they were able to track her phone down, but I am so glad we have such a great security team that we can count on!  They are really awesome; we can count on them to respond when we call, and they do a great job looking out for us and dealing with difficult situations.  They are tough when necessary and don't take any crap, yet at the same time they are incredibly sensitive and compassionate in situations like the one today. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Today At The Desk...

Today was kind of a strange day at the desk.  It started out unusually slow and quiet, which gave me a chance to cut out pieces for a storytime activity and get through a cart that was overflowing with books that had been de-selected and needed to be withdrawn and sent down to the Friends' bookstore.

But then, all of a sudden a situation suddenly developed and escalated quickly.  I don't want to give too many specifics in order to maintain privacy, but it had to do with a young child throwing a tantrum and a parent who lost control, prompting three security guards to come running in response to the commotion, and nearly involved the police.  Fortunately, no outright abuse occurred, only some questionable parenting, and the patron quickly picked up the child and left, which is what they should have done thirty minutes earlier and the whole scene could have been avoided.

It all happened so quickly that there wasn't much for me to do, aside from initially rushing over when the child started throwing toys and train pieces to be sure no one got hurt.  By that time security was there to handle things as the parent the began to lose control, and their presence kept things from escalating even more. 

I see situations like this all too often, though fortunately not usually to this degree.  I can empathize with the parents to some degree, most of us have had those less-than-stellar parenting moments when we are already stressed out about something else and the kids are being extra uncooperative, so I try not to judge.  But at the same time, I can also see how easily preventable these situation are, as they are almost always created by the same scenario:  an inattentive parent who is so intent on whatever they are doing on the phone or computer that they are not paying any attention to the child, a child who is too young to be without close supervision or be expected to entertain themselves for very long, and staying past the child's tolerance and the child begins to get bored, frustrated, tired, hungry, or in need of attention. 

I can always see it coming, as the child always begins to give cues by whining, crying, wandering off, getting into mischief, or verbalizing their frustration for about half an hour before the final meltdown, but too often the parent ignores the cues until it's too late.  I don't know if it's inexperience, selfishness, or just the parent being too single-minded on what they are doing, but it is frustrating to see it coming and not be able to prevent it.  I will try to distract and redirect the child with toys or board books, or ask them if they want to be my helper and give them something to do.  I may even try to hint to the parent by making a friendly comment like "Oh, I think somebody's had enough for today"  but there's not much more I can do.  If a child's had enough, they've had enough.

If any of my readers have any insights on how to head off these situations in a patron-friendly way, please leave a comment; I'd love to hear it.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Review of Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap  by Laura Ruby.  March 3, 2015.  Balzer + Bray.  368 pages.  Ages Teen & Adult.  **2016 Printz Award Winner**

Finn and his older brother Sean have lost more than their fair share of people in their lives.  First their father is killed in an accident, then their mother runs off with a man she met online, leaving Sean to care for Finn, derailing his plans for medical school. 

Then one day a beautiful girl named Roza suddenly and mysteriously appears, and then disappears just as suddenly and mysteriously a few months later.  But in the time she was there, Finn and his older brother Sean both came to love her, though not in the same way.

Now Finn is left to deal with his grief, guilt, and frustration.  Grief at missing Roza, guilt for not trying to save her from the man who took her, and frustration that no one seems to believe that he saw her being kidnapped because Finn is unable to provide a good description to police.  Finn feels that Sean resents him for not stopping Roza, as well as for being the reason he had to give up medical school, and Finn is angry at Sean for not trying to find Roza.

Finn doesn't stop thinking about Roza, and after he runs into her kidnapper a second time, he becomes determined to rescue her, no matter how strange and mysterious the circumstances prove to be.

My Thoughts
I really had no idea what this book was about or even what genre it was when I started reading it, only that it had recently been named the Printz award winner for YA literature.  I was a bit skeptical at first, because I typically find Printz award/honor books to be too weird for me.  But after I started reading it, I got completely caught up in the mystery of where Roza came from and what happened to her, and I was completely unprepared when it suddenly got weird in the middle and went from what I thought was a mystery/psychological thriller to fantasy.  I have to say, that twist completely ruined the story for me.  If I had read any of the blurbs from reviews on the cover, I would have known to expect the fantasy and might have liked it more, but I still really wish it would have turned out to be the mystery/thriller that I thought it was.

That being said, I know I'm in the minority and most people loved this book, and young adults tend to like fantasy much more than I do.  Though I didn't care for the twist the story took, I think it is well-written and moves along at a decent pace for most of the story.  The character of Finn was very well-developed and relatable, with all his conflicting feelings about himself, his brother, and his life in general.  The other characters were a little harder to know, which is in keeping with Sean's "strong, silent type" persona and the necessary mystery surrounding Roza. 

I would recommend this book to those who are fans of magical realism or like a good mystery/thriller and don't mind elements of fantasy.

Other Books By This Author
Laura Ruby has written a number of other novels for both teens and younger readers, some with elements of mystery and fantasy, including The Chaos King, The Wall and the Wing, Lily's Ghosts, and others that are realistic fiction, including Bad Apple and Good Girls.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review of Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, 2106 Newbery Honor Book

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.  February 24, 2015.  Scholastic Press. 592 pages.  Ages 10-14.

"Fifty years before the war to end all wars," a young boy named Otto becomes lost in the forest, where he is found by three sisters who have been trapped there by a witch's spell.  The sisters help Otto find his way out, and in exchange he carries their spirits with him in the music of his harmonica, and promises to help them gain their freedom by passing it along to the right person, at the right time.

The harmonica first finds its way into the hands of Friedrich, a German boy in Nazi Germany.  Friedrich is musically gifted, but his face is marked with a large hermangioma and he suffered from seizures as a newborn, thus marking him as an "undesirable" according to the Nazi regime.  After his father is arrested, he fears his uncle will be next.  Can they rescue his father and escape Germany before it's too late?

Next, the harmonica ends up in the hands of Mike, who along with his younger brother Frankie, were left at a "boys' home" near Philadelphia by their grandmother shortly before her death.  There, they live in fear of being separated, until their musical talent provides an unexpected opportunity.  But is it too good to be true?  Can they trust their new benefactor?

Finally, the harmonica makes its way to Ivy in California during World War II.  Ivy's family moves to what they hope to be a permanent home, managing the farm belonging to a Japanese-American family who have been sent to an internment camp.  While her family had high hopes for their new home, they are faced with discrimination, segregation, and suspicion, all the while worrying about Ivy's older brother who has enlisted in the Marines.

The four stories all finally come together at the end, woven together with the common thread of music, and a little magic.

My Thoughts
This is a beautiful, epic story that is mostly historical fiction, but with a little fantasy and music thrown in to tie it all together.  I read another review that likened it in part to The Book Thief, and I think that's a fairly apt comparison, though obviously this is meant for younger readers.  It is longer than most middle-grade novels, but it is really 4 stories in one, and I didn't want to put it down.  Each child's story could stand alone, but are tied together in such a way as to make one truly beautiful, rich, and compelling read.  The characters are well-developed and sympathetic; the storylines believable.

I did find myself a little frustrated that each story ended with a cliffhanger, and you had to wait until the very end to find out what happened to all of them.  I was very tempted to cheat and skip to the end to find out if Friedrich and his family survived the Nazis, or if Mike and Frankie found a loving home together, but I fought the urge and held out until the end, and I was rewarded with a magical ending that united all three of the main characters, and some of the secondary characters as well.  The ending was worth the suspense.  Some may think the ending a little too neat and "happily ever after," but I don't have a problem with that, especially considering it is for younger readers.  We can save all the misery, death, and depression for the teen and adult books.

Some readers might be put off by the length, but I would encourage them to give it a try, and think of it as a trilogy.  I would recommend it to fans of historical fiction, and to those who like uplifting stories of children surviving difficult times, such as fellow Newbery Honor book, The War That Saved My Life.  It might not have enough fantasy for a hard-core fan of high-fantasy, but it might have enough to entice some readers who do not ordinarily read historical fiction, and it might convince readers who typically prefer historical or realistic fiction to give some other books with light fantasy a try, so it's a nice cross-over book.

I really loved this book.  Prior to reading it, I would have voted the Newbery to The War That Saved My Life, but now I think I'd have to vote for Echo.  

Other Books By This Author
Pam Muñoz Ryan has written over thirty books for young readers, including Belpre Award winners Esperanza Rising and Dreamer, and Siebert Honor book When Marian Sang.

Other 2016 Newbery Award/Honor Books
Last Stop On Market Street, The War That Saved My Life, and Roller Girl.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Today At The Desk....

Today was a little bit different from the usual routine as we had several school groups coming in to checkout non-fiction books.  Often we will pull a selection of books for them to chose from ahead of time if they have a specific genre or topic, but since they didn't have a specific topic assigned this time we just left them to browse the stacks.  Two groups came in the morning, then three more in the afternoon during my shift.  It was kind of a whirlwind as they didn't stay long, just came in, quickly chose books, checked out, and left. 

They were pretty well behaved, other than not putting their discards on the cart like I asked, and didn't need a lot of assistance.  The only slight issue was several of them forgot their cards, despite being told they had to have them, and wanted me to look up their accounts.  I told the teacher I could do that if she wanted, but that they would not be able to be in and out in the 10-15 minutes they had if I took time to look up several students (just to be clear, the limited time was specified by her, not the library).  So we decided to prioritize checking out the students who had their cards and if there was time left I would look up the rest, and it was her call when to leave.

After they left there was of course some tidying up to do!  I went through the stacks and picked up all the books they had left just lying on the shelves, straightened up the remaining books, and replaced missing face-outs on the shelves and displays.  The rest of the shift was pretty routine.  I pulled all the holds and transfers, helped a few patrons locate materials and place requests, and worked a little on some stuff for my Storytime-To-Go program.  I was in the middle of helping a patron find a biography for a school assignment when it was time for the shift change, so I explained this to the patron and introduced her to my co-worker, and brought them all up to speed on what I had found (or not found) thus far.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Middle School Book Club

This month I once again led a discussion group of Holly Black's Doll Bones, a 2014 Newbery Honor book, at the local middle school book club.  Since it is the same book I did last time and we pretty much discussed the same questions, I'm just going to link to my previous post for the book summary and questions:  Middle School Book Club - Doll Bones (December).

How It Went
This time around I had a smaller group, only five, due to some kids having to go to rehearsal for the school musical.  But, I was pleasantly surprised to see two boys show up!  Last time I had all girls, because apparently having "doll" in the title and a doll on the cover makes some boys think it is a "girl book".  I told that last group that it was their job to convince some boys to give it a try, so apparently they were successful.

This group was much quieter than the last one, which was rather boisterous.  The girls did talk and discuss, they just weren't quite as exuberant in their discussion and didn't have quite as much to say as the previous group.  I had a really hard time getting the boys to say much of anything at all; they both seemed pretty shy.  With the last group I really didn't have to do much prompting; the discussion just flowed naturally, but with this one it was a little stiff and awkward at times.  It was interesting to see that this group didn't really believe there was a real ghost or that the doll was really haunted, and thought that Poppy made it up as a new game to keep the three of them together, and explained Zach's dreams of the ghost as the result of the power of suggestion.  They also didn't seem to pick up on the budding romance between Zach and Alice. 

Everyone agreed the book was spookier than they expected, and that they all liked it and would like to see it make into a movie, even the ones that said they didn't typically read scary stories.  I asked for suggestions for similar books that someone who enjoyed Doll Bones might like, and they responded with The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hall.

Next time I will probably ask to do a different book, just for variety.  I've done this one twice already, so I'm ready for something new.